Adventures with NSSE, the Student Engagement Survey

So, NSSE . . . Oh, you mean Nessie, the giant, Scottish lake monster. Um, well, sort of . . . Here, let me explain! If you’re in first or fourth year, you may have received an email from the President of U of T, Meric S. Gertler, asking for your participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement. It looks like this: Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 1.34.51 PM Basically, U of T “wants to improve your educational experience” and we, the students, can help. In fact, we can actively change the university experience for the better. How? By filling out this online survey. Plus, you could win prizes!
Actually, Simba, change is easy—with NSSE! I’m not saying that filling out the survey will instantly make U of T the best university in the world, but it will contribute to the on-going mission to make U of T better for students. I spoke with David Newman, Director of the Office of Student Life, and he helped me understand what NSSE is all about. He explained that the survey helps the people who run U of T identify the strengths of a U of T education and prioritize issues for change. The survey reveals important information on how students engage with the university, on academic, social, institutional, and personal levels, which allows the head-honchos to judge the efficacy and relevance of U of T’s programs and services for students. Sounds pretty good, right? Past NSSE results have helped change U of T with things like First-Year Foundational Programs like Vic One, the Student Initiative Fund, NGSIS (our online student resource network), Interactive Campus Maps, Mentorship Resource Centre, the new Co-Curricular Record, and more. In short, NSSE gets things done!
The actual survey takes about 15 minutes. It’s all multiple-choice questions, no writing. Just read, think, click, and repeat! The survey asks about your courses, how often you engage in class, whether your courses influence your understanding of societal, political, and racial issues, and how helpful are your instructors. The survey asks about your assignment types, your study habits, and whether you have any career/academic paths and plans like internships, studying abroad, independent research courses. It asks about your interaction with non-academic areas of U of T, like housing services, your registrar, and academic advising. It asks about the university’s impact on your development as a person. It asks about your social-life, work, family-issues and your experience with U of T support resources. It asks if you could start all over would you still go to U of T. That’s an interesting question. What do you think? Then it asks you specific questions about your current year, what you study, what grades you get, how many courses you take. Then it asks your sex, year of birth, ethnicity, and that kind of stuff. The last thing is an option to add any personal thoughts, concerns, or issues. You can elaborate on your university experience. You can suggest improvements. You can tell the university anything you want about your time at U of T. In the end, what’s most important is the 15 minutes you took to participate in making U of T a better university for yourself and future students. ‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T! - Stephen

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